Est. 1999

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I raise my hand and touch the wheel of change
taking time to check the dial

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This article was found in the Cleveland Free Times

A&M (1970)

Published November 17 - 23, 1999

Here’s a perfect example of how popular misconceptions can translate directly into dogmatic ignorance. There are two main arteries of hubbub on Cat Stevens, both stemming from the same Western tendency to confuse profound unconventionality with legitimacy. To wit: Many folks remember Cat Stevens as a good-looking hippie with an uncanny poetic knack. Others know him as an eccentric, disillusioned aging pop icon who turned to Allah for fulfillment. Obviously, neither of these descriptions befits the common man; and unfortunately, our undying fetishes for gimmicks and labels have sequestered Stevens into these uncomfortable niches.

While Tea for the Tillerman may expose brief glimpses of the aforementioned misconceptions, these barely scratch the surface of this elaborate album. Weaving casually through 11 sublimely-orchestrated anthems, Stevens plays a multitude of roles. He is at once a self-righteous social critic and self-deprecating lovelorn drifter, employing dozens of voices betwixt. From the initial open-letter-to-the-establishment, "Where Do the Children Play," to the inspirational gospel of the album’s title (and final) track, he investigates a multitude of personal, social and religious issues.

Sounds commonplace, yes, but Cat Stevens’ nakedly unpretentious, soul-stirring delivery casts a transcendent light on his themes: the ever-shrinking world, love gone awry, the inherent flaws of mortality and discordant father/son relations, among scores more. The overall effect is at once uplifting and sobering — psychologically stirring a la some heretofore-undiscovered hyperspiritual reggae on amphetamine. Tea for the Tillerman is, among the 10 million other pop albums since its release, a uniquely inquisitive take on the virtues and tragedies of humanity, made possible only by Stevens’ undying quest: "On and on we go, the seconds tick the time out/But there’s so much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out." — Nicholas Raymond


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